Finally Farm’s Liza Boyd couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present on Saturday April 23 when she guided Pony Lane Farm’s Like I Said to the victory in the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, held April 23 during the Aiken spring Classic Masters in Aiken, South Carolina.
“It was a great day,” said Boyd, who also placed third overall with Pony Lane Farm’s Coronado and 12th with her own Shamrock. “After the show, we went out to dinner at Casa Bella in Aiken and had a wonderful dinner out on the patio.”
Like I Said, an 8-year-old Mecklenburg mare by Callie Seaman’s Holsteiner stallion Carrico (Catkin—Kapitale), is following in her sire’s footsteps as a top derby contender.
“Now that I’ve gotten to know her, she’s really fun to ride,” said Liza. “After the first time I showed her I called Larry (Glefke, her former trainer) for some advice. He said, ‘You’re trying to be too perfect. Kick her and go.’ So, I followed his advice and just kicked and galloped. It turns out the more you challenge her, the better she is. He was spot on.”
Liza and “Sally” went first in the Classic Hunter Round and set a bar no one else could match, so they returned last for the Handy Round.
Fellow professional Havens Schatt had just jumped into the lead aboard John Yozell’s Breeze while Liza and Sally stood at the in-gate as the final entries to take the course. The class was theirs to win or lose.
“Havens went for it and did all of the high options and took over the lead,” said Liza. “Havens didn’t make it easy for me! I thought, ‘Now, I have to go for it. I can’t jump the low options.’ So, I just went for it, too. Sally’s more seasoned, and Kelley (Farmer, her former rider) asked her these questions before, so I felt comfortable having now shown her twice. She scored 92 and 92 as her base scores before high options and handy points, so she was on it.
“The first fence in the Handy was a big oxer that you had to canter to directly from the gate,” continued Liza. “I could see that I was really far away, and I was like ‘Oh no, I’m really long here.’ It was a little bit like that last jump on Brunello at the USHJA International Hunter Derby Championships—I was either going to chip or be a hero, and out of nowhere she pushed up and over the fence brilliantly and did just what I asked. The rest of the course was great, and she was excellent doing the tight turns. A good horse gives you room for error, and she’s a really good horse.”
Liza also placed third aboard Pony Lane Farm’s young stallion Coronado, and she was also pleased with his performance.
“I went back in the Handy on ‘Baby Brunello,’ and he was great,” she said, of the chestnut who resembles her famous partner. “With him being 6 years old, I did choose the low option to the first fence. He has huge scope, but he’s still a little green. Everywhere else he did the high options and the inside turns. More and more he reminds me of Ike, with such range and scope that you can be long and deep and he covers it up for you. His brain is fantastic, too, and he’s not afraid of anything, while at the same time he’s not dull. He’s quite careful and aware and sharp. I’m really excited about him.”
Liza credited her Finally Farm team for their support, dedication and talent, which allowed her to ride three horses into the top 12 of the derby (she also placed 12th with Shamrock) and focus on the riding and strategy.
“I’m so, so lucky right now to have the best staff and support team,” she emphasized. “In the schooling area I had Tamara (Berkowitz) flatting and Randi Button there with the horses. Like I Said loves her, and they’ve already bonded in the short time we’ve had the mare. You have to do things her way, and it carries over to the ring as well. So, you can tell that mare truly likes Randi and feels comfortable and safe.”
Liza also credited Max Mandel for going the extra mile—literally. “Max, who rides the horses at home, wanted to drive down to the show after working at the farm all day to see the derby. He said, ‘I ride these horses at home, and it helps me to watch them compete and know what I should be working on.’ It’s really hard to find people who care so much and want to learn. Tamara prepared the mare, rode her and did everything for her before the class. All they do makes my job easier and allows me to focus on the course and my plan. I don’t have to stress about what’s happening back at the barn, and that’s a wonderful thing,” she said.
Stella Styslinger also benefitted from the Finally Farm team effort. She won a slew of blue ribbons, including victory in the ASPCA Maclay with Centerfold K, the 3’6” Junior Hunter championship aboard Invincible and first and second places on Invincible and O’Ryan, respectively, in the Junior Hunter Classic.
Liza was especially thrilled with Stella’s riding on the big grass field at Aiken, which isn’t the typical show environment these days, with the distances between fences often more than 10 strides.
“Out there on that grass field it’s hard when you show in rings most of the time,” said Liza. “You really need a seasoned horse, and ‘Shaq’ has seen so much and been everywhere with owner Ellen Toon that he was phenomenal. He knows his job and jumped beautifully out there over the big, solid fences. I know Ellen would have been happy to see him go so well, and we are always thanking her so much for sharing him with us. Shaq and Stella are a great match, and he goes better for her than for me! He loves her because she stays out of his way, and clearly he knows what he’s doing, and she lets him do it, and it’s fun to watch.”
Liza also offered a shout-out to Zola Thompson for winning the Medium Pony Hunter stake class aboard Elegance. Liza credited Stella for all of her hard work recently. “She came down to Camden the past couple of weeks for lessons and jumped cavaletti without stirrups. She’s such a trooper, and she’s starting to get stronger and that hard work is paying off. I was really proud of her.”
Erin McGuire and Kasarr continued their consistent performances in the grand prix arena, with a fourth in the $7,500 Welcome Stake and fourth in the $25,000 Aiken Grand Prix. Impressively, they jumped double-clear in both of their classes.
The Children’s and Adult Jumper riders also scored great ribbons at Aiken. Chacor and Brie Tiffany earned the High Adult Jumper reserve Championship, while Hiho Houdini with Grace Howard and Justified and Kelly Maloney earning top ribbons.
Croft Original and Lily Bennett earned excellent ribbons in the High Children’s as well.
“Those horses were all prepared by Tamara during the week in the 1.10m and 1.15m jumpers, and I have to thank her for getting them all so well prepared. She’s a strong and confident rider and sets them up so well for the kids,” said Liza, who again reiterated how important the whole team is to their success.
“From Tamara and Max who ride the horses and prepare them, to Randi who is such great horsewoman and knows the horses so well, it’s a team effort. They all give me important feedback that helps in the training and care of the horses, from the ring to the feeding program and how they’re feeling. All three know their jobs so well, and, of course, Alberto (Ramirez) is the boss of all of us—he tells all of us what we’re doing wrong and right! I feel so fortunate to have a great team who care and are so dedicated.”